So my partner and I have decided to give AI War another shot. Not the game so much as winning. If we don't succeed this time, it'll be a year before I come back, having been waylaid by Skyrim, Minecraft, Terraria, and the 9000 steam games I just kind of bought. By way of background, we're not bad. We can usually hold our own against a pair of 7's, and we actually destroyed a homeworld once, and were a couple hops away from winning when hardware trouble caused us to shelve the game and subsequently misplace our saves. But that was a fairly vanilla game.
Now we (read: I) have become fixated on beating a particular seed, with particular settings. And those settings are basically 80 systems, "everything on". Again, we're not rookies, we've played probably 10 games or so together, and we usually stall or run out of RL time to play, rather than lose, without very much in the way of save scumming. The beauty of the seed is that it's got a single system called Reach (yes, custom name file) with 8 or 9 connections, and it serves as a natural bottleneck that divides the galaxy up into roughly three sectors, kind of like a mini-X. But unlike X, the outside of two of the sectors connects in a few places, so while it's not as eminently defensible as the middle of the X, it doesn't cause the same level of stalemate in the middle.
But back to the settings. We know that hybrids are a huge pain, we know that we're overwhelming ourselves with the sheer amount of stuff we have. We're okay with that. We just would like to find a way to succeed in spite of it. So I'm going to rattle off basically how our game went:
We started off in the back of the isolated quadrant. I took Reach, and plopped every turret I owned on it, and made sure it was the only system we'd have to defend. She took responsibility for clearing the rest of the quadrant and we split the systems equitably. We did some scouting, and found several golems, several ARSs, one factory and one fab. We also found some data centers and raided them with minimal losses despite having to fly 4 or more hops into hostile space. Here progress started to slow and then grind to an aimless stop. Our difficulties were basically explaiend as follows.
1) Exowaves. I don't think we were getting the maximum use out of our golems and especially spirecraft. I had some attritioners chilling out in Reach, which helped a bunch against the mostly homogenous attack waves. Then some implosion artillary for a rainy day. We had a botnet golem and a black widow. The botnet got a nice little swarm of ships from the attack waves, but wasn't enough to really swing the game for us. On the flip side, Hunter Killers absolutely wrecked us, and with 2 players, they were starting as early as wave 2 (or as late as wave 4 or 5; exos were highly luck dependent). Their movement can't be controlled, their damage is sickening at that stage in the game, and as soon as we ran out of fleet ships to feed it, our stack of pyramids would just explode. Implosion ships helped, and we even wasted some penetrator shots on it, but it still did terrible, terrible damage and was basically uncontrollable.
Possible solutions: I'm drawing blanks. An artillarly golem would be nice. Prioritizing ships over turrets would help too, because the thing has command grade armor, rendering turrets all but useless. Not to mention it's only in range of whatever it wants to be in range of. I really don't think we're making optimal use of spirecraft, but I don't know how to use low-end asteroids better.
2) Hybrids. They harass the bejesus out of us. Reach normally just reaches out and murders them with sheer bulk of turret fire, but they tend to get really obnoxious anywhere else they show up.
Possible solutions: get better about posting grav turrets and anti-hybrid forces wherever they tend to show up. On the offense, neutering a planet would let me dump a ton of ships into hostile territory, kill the hybrids, and come back with few consequences besides those the hybrids themselves inflict upon me.
3) Hateful topography. The factory IV was in the middle of a bunch of otherwise worthless systems, with about 5 ways in, including several that were "forward", roughly speaking. Defending it would've been nightmarish. I see no real answer to this one. We had enough trouble fighting back exos with everything concentrated in one place. Splitting our forces in two would've made the situation hopeless. And I don't know of any way to reposition our fleets from one half of the galaxy to the other in the time it takes an exo to traverse 2 or 3 systems in the best case.
Possible solutions: push forward and find a better located factory, I guess. I dunno.
4) Everything else. Not that all the other elements were hard to deal with or posed significant challenges, but each one incrementally eats up finite resources.
Solution: Deal with 1-3 better, thus freeing up resources to kill the mining golems while liberating the colonies, fight off the random annoying marauders,
Possible solutions: Heavy gate raiding, combined with fortifying it strongly against exos/CPAs. I think I'd still probably end up losing the factory.
Ultimately, we spend so much time trying to secure ourselves against the exos and the hybrids and everything else coming our way that the offense stalls, the exos get worse and worse, we start save scumming, get depressed and play something else. Perhaps this reflects an unacceptably slow rate of expansion prior to the game getting dicey. Then again, more often than not, we're dealing with full ship caps prior to the exo. Perhaps that means we're not researching enough ships.
For what it's worth, one of our ARSs was spire mini rams. Two full caps predictably made roughly no dents in the HKs.
Anyway. I'm interested in hearing any and all advice. My tactics revolve pretty heavily around fleet ships, transports, gravity turrets, and forcefields. My partner is a bit more balanced. Thanks in advance all.